Background


What do you do?

"When I'm asked, 'what do you do?' it makes me pause," states Datamum Principal, Stephanie Thompson, "Because the kind of work I do isn't familiar to a lot of people. So I try to give the simplest answer that will make the most sense to them without going into a lot of technical detail. I usually say, 'I help companies extract valuable information from the data that they already collect.'"

in·for·ma·tion: knowledge skillfully extracted from data


"And I get asked this question a lot. But, if I just say that I do data mining and data analysis, or that I perform various statistical modeling techniques to uncover data trends and relationships, I usually receive a blank stare in return. What I do isn't something that you hear about every day."

"Nevertheless, most companies collect a lot of data in the course of their daily operations--about their manufacturing processes, finances, sales, inventory, and even about their customers, of course. Although the majority of them are not extracting some of the most important and useful information out of this data because they don't know how, which means they aren't getting the competitive advantage from it that they could. They either don't know it's there, or they don't know how to extract the information. Either way, it's a lost opportunity for them."

"Helping companies to make this realization is often the challenge."

How do you meet this challenge?

"To be knowledgeable in this field requires not only advanced skills in statistical modeling, but also proficiency in computer programming," states Stephanie. "It also requires solid business acumen to understand what different kinds of data can be used to provide the various sorts of useful correlations or trends, and how such information can be of value in making business decisions and differentiating a company's product and service offerings from those of their competitors."

"My professional experience and education in business and technology have advanced my own understanding and, in turn, strongly compliment the services that Datamum has to offer. I have been programming for over 20 years. And, during that time, data analysis and data mining has come into its own and gotten a lot stronger, especially in the last 10 years with the exponential increase in microprocessor speeds and advancements in business intelligence software. The pervasiveness and ever increasing power of computer technology has forever altered the landscape of modern business by making the use of analytics not only a possibility but a strategic necessity."

"I became particularly interested in this area when I worked for a large specialty retailer, looking at patterns in their sales data, trying to determine the proper mix of products for specific stores. In addition to retail, I've provided my services to academia and to publicly and privately held companies in a variety of other industries: automotive, commercial printing, consumer foods, environmental services, information technology, logistics and transportation, and medical devices."

"I'm also quite active in the SAS programming community. Besides teaching SAS courses--I played a key role in the University of Memphis establishing their undergraduate SAS certificate program, I frequently present at SAS regional, national, and international conferences. I've authored over 30 technical papers on various aspects of data mining and data analysis. Moreover, I'm a SAS Certified Base Programmer for SAS9 and am committed to helping others who share my passion for analytics to achieve this same distinction."

What's the impact?

"Some companies realize the value of the data they collect, and have even tailored the way that they collect and use that information," states Stephanie. "For some, it has even created significant advantages over their competitors."

"Amazon.com is one such example. When you search for a product on their Web site, they in turn produce a list of products that may appeal to you based on what you have selected to view or purchase. Have you ever wondered how Amazon can pick books or music titles to display that so often seem to anticipate your tastes? Each time you search for a product or place an order, it allows them to do a better job of recommending products that you might be interested in, based on your shopping profile and thousands of similar buying patterns. That's a very simplified version of what is happening behind the scenes, but it is all about data analysis and making predictions based on statistical models."

"Many companies are not yet using these techniques, however. Statistical techniques and mathematical modeling are abstract concepts that are just too difficult for them to relate to when it comes to the everyday operations of their businesses. These are the companies that Datamum aims to help."